The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #14010   Message #118170
Posted By: M. Ted (inactive)
27-Sep-99 - 03:24 PM
Thread Name: Info on voice ranges
Subject: Info on voice ranges
Not wanting to seem uppity or anything, but I started a seperate thread for this because I thought that it was more likely to get to people who needed the information here than at the end of a long thread (Is that so wrong?;-))

People's voices tend to fall in a range of about three octaves--about an octave and a half either side of middle C--the lower side for men, the higher side for women--If your voice sounds better on the higher notes , you are a soprano or tenor, better on the lower notes, you are an alto or a baritone--if you can manage the lowest notes, you are a bass--

Choral music tends to be divided into four parts, Soprano, alto for women, tenor, baritone/bass for men--

People sometimes get very confused about what the actual ranges are, even performers with classical training, simply because certain of the parts are written an octave above the pitch that the voice actually uses--

Folk musicians can get even more confused, because they are usually most familiar with guitar parts, which are written an octave above where they actually sound--

Someone mentioned that a "jazz guy" told them that the A string, third fret, is where the middle C is--this is sort of right, that is the note that you play on the guitar when you see a middle C, however, that note is actually an octave below middle C--B string first fret is the actual middle C on a guitar--

The Soprano parts usually fall into a range of about an octave and a half, from middle C to the G above the staff--on the guitar this would be from B-string first fret to e-string, 15th fret.

The Alto parts fall about a fourth below this, the range being from G below middle C, to the high E on the staff, which is the third in the first octave above--the G-string open to e-string twelvth fret--

The Tenor part is written from middle C to G above the staff, corresponding to the Soprano, but actually sounds an octave below that--so it corresponds to A-string third fret to e-string third fret--

Bass/Baritone is written and sounds in the bass clef- from G in the second octave below middle C to the D above middle C--This would be from the E-String third fret to the D-string open. The Bass part only will go down to the C below that(a major third below the E-String), and the Baritone part only will go to the G above middle C.--the open G string--

Practically speaking, the four ranges are really five ranges, and they are a fourth apart, not an octave, as you might suppose --The soprano carries the melody in the range that it is written, the alto being a lower harmony part extending a fourth below it--The tenor falling an octave below the soprano, and runs to about a fifth below the alto, carrying the melody, and the baritone being the male lower harmony, a fourth below that--and the bass being generally left out of mixed groups--

So what do these divisions mean to people who sing folk and popular music?

Not so much as you might think--for a bunch of reasons--

First-- because most singers have a larger range than the group parts tend to be written for,

Second, you still have to to know what your good keys are, and what kind of range the song you are singing requires,

Thirdly, a lot of folk singing requires some strain or other sound quality that only works at the extremes of the singers range--whatever it is--

Fourth, and most important, as a soloist, the melody is wherever you want it to be (and, since it is folk music, whatever you want it to be)

The higher ranges tend to allow more for volume and power., and are easier to control, but tend to be difficult to differentiate--lower voices , alto and baritone, have more overtones, are more difficult to keep even and on pitch, and tend to need more air, because the high pitches carry farther than the low ones, but they offer more subtlety of expression and more unique character--

It takes quite few years for a low voice to develop--while the higher voices are great at an early age----Which is why old Bluesmen and Country singers and saloon singers just get better--while the boy sopranos just fade away--and why men often think they can"t sing, when it is just that their voice isn't ready yet--